Skip to main content

Chinese astronauts celebrate lunar new year on Tiangong space station, a first

Festive red adorns China's Tiangong space station in new footage celebrating the lunar new year in orbit, kicking off the Year of the Tiger.

The Shenzhou 13 astronauts are the first to celebrate the holiday in orbit, according to the China National Space Administration, and were given ample supplies to do so. "They have decorated the space station core module with traditional Chinese paper-cuts, spring festival couplets ... and red lanterns," state provider CCTV said in a recent update.

"I wish you all a Happy New Year, good health, good luck and an auspicious Year of the Tiger," commander Zhai Zhigang says in footage from CCTV, which the media outlet translated into English. Joining Zhigang in the festivities in the Tianhe core module of the station are Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu. 

Chinese New Year happens on the new moon between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20, which places this year's holiday on Tuesday (Feb. 1). It is one of the most important holidays in the country and is often marked (on Earth) with fireworks or firecrackers.

Related: The latest news about China's space program

Image 1 of 4

Chinese astronauts on the Tiangong space station module Tianhe decorated their space home for the lunar new year to ring in the Year of the Tiger in orbit on Feb. 1, 2022.

Astronaut Wang Yaping wishes the people of China a happy lunar new year for the Year of the Tiger from China's Tiangong space station module Tianhe. (Image credit: CCTV/CMSE)
Image 2 of 4

Chinese astronauts on the Tiangong space station module Tianhe decorated their space home for the lunar new year to ring in the Year of the Tiger in orbit on Feb. 1, 2022.

Shenzhou 13 mission commander Zhai Zhigang sends good wishes to everyone celebrating the lunar new year while displaying a banner on the Tiangong space station for the Year of the Tiger. (Image credit: CCTV/CMSE)
Image 3 of 4

Chinese astronauts on the Tiangong space station module Tianhe decorated their space home for the lunar new year to ring in the Year of the Tiger in orbit on Feb. 1, 2022.

Astronaut Ye Guangfu holds lunar new year decorations and sends well wishes to China to ring in the Year of the Tiger on China's Tiangong space station module Tianhe. (Image credit: CCTV/CMSE)
Image 4 of 4

Chinese astronauts on the Tiangong space station module Tianhe decorated their space home for the lunar new year to ring in the Year of the Tiger in orbit on Feb. 1, 2022.

(Image credit: CCTV/CMSE)

Shenzhou 13 lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert Oct. 15, aboard a Long March 2F rocket. The mission has already broken one Chinese record, with Wang becoming the first woman to live aboard the core module. 

The taikonauts aim to spend roughly six months in orbit, double the duration of Shenzhou 12, the only other mission so far to visit Tianhe with an all-male crew.

So far, the crew has continued station construction with a spacewalk in November 2021, livestreamed a science lecture for Chinese students that December and manually flew a cargo ship in January to test emergency procedures and docking.

Increased Chinese activities in space and cybersecurity worries, however, have caused concern both from the Biden administration and from senior NASA officials, who see the country as seeking space superiority in its crewed launches along with recent missions at the moon and Mars.

A 2011 Congressional directive called the Wolf Amendment prohibits NASA from using federal funds for direct, bilateral cooperation with the Chinese government. As such, China is not a partner on the International Space Station project and does not collaborate with NASA on robotic missions.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.